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LOU DOBBS TONIGHT
Israeli Tank & Troop Buildup on Israel-Lebanon Border; Lebanese President Says Army Ready to Defend Lebanon; New Hezbollah Rockets Hit Haifa in Northern Israel; Strategy of Kidnapping Soldiers; Alberto Gonzales Praises Bush's Immigration Plan; House Holds a Hearing On Expanded Fence Along Border with Mexico
Aired July 21, 2006 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU DOBBS, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight, Israeli tanks and troops are massing on the border with Lebanon. Israel has called up thousands of new reservists. Israel is preparing for a full-scale ground offensive into southern Lebanon tonight.
As Israel prepares for a widening of the war, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is set to travel to the Middle East Sunday. The secretary of state is dismissing calls for an immediate cease-fire in this worsening conflict.
ANNOUNCER: This is LOU DOBBS TONIGHT, news, debate and opinion for Friday, July 21st.
Live in New York, Lou Dobbs.
DOBBS: Good evening, everybody.
The Israeli military tonight is preparing for a full-scale ground invasion into southern Lebanon. Israeli tanks and troops have massed on the border with Lebanon. Israeli is warning residents of southern Lebanon to head north.
In Washington tonight, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is calling for lasting peace and stability in the Middle East. She says an immediate cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah could hurt that cause. Her trip to the Mideast begins on Sunday.
Tonight, Christiane Amanpour is live on the Israeli-Lebanese border as Israel's military buildup is intensifying.
Nic Robertson is live in Beirut, where the president of Lebanon says his army will join the fight and defend Lebanon if Israeli ground troops invade.
And Barbara Starr in Cyprus, where there is concern the U.S. military will be drawn into a widening Mideast war.
We turn first to Christiane Amanpour -- Christiane.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Lou, today a very conspicuous and easily accessible to us journalists buildup of tanks, troops and other armor on the border. And more talk from senior Israeli commanders about all power being directed towards the Lebanese border and about potentially -- they're evaluating, they say -- but potentially a much larger-scale ground operation than exists right now.
AMANPOUR (voice over): Israeli warplanes are dropping bombs and messages. The latest flurry of leaflets tells residents of southern Lebanon to move back, 40 kilometers back from the border with Israel. The Israeli generals want the battlefield "free of civilian restrictions."
After days of artillery fire, war from the air, and a limited number of troops on the ground, Israel is preparing now for a possible large-scale ground envision. Mobilizing all of its forces, even reserves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some of the forces are active forces coming from different sectors of the country, reinforcing the active forces in Lebanon. The reserve units, some of them are going to the northern border with Lebanon. All of the reinforcements are going to the direction of Lebanon.
AMANPOUR: A senior military source says Israel already has several battalions on the ground in southern Lebanon. That's more than a thousand troops. But General Shuki Shahur (ph) would only confirm he does have forces there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We entered with armored forces and engineer forces, and we started systematically to destroy the Hezbollah positions along the border.
AMANPOUR: Israeli infantry, he says, have crossed anywhere between a mile and a few miles into Lebanon, and some special forces are even deeper in because they can't get some of the targets from the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We identified bunkers in the open area that, without entering to the place itself and looking on the ground for these camouflaged bunkers, we would never have found them.
AMANPOUR: General Shahur won't say whether these tanks and troops moving towards the border means that a ground invasion has been authorized, just that the army is ready and evaluating the need minute by minute.
(on camera): With troops and armor being redeployed from all over the country to the northern battlefront, Israelis are watching to see what happens next with concern. As one former tank commander told me, "Israel going back into Lebanon is like the United States going back into Vietnam."
(voice over): For now, though, the Israeli people overwhelmingly back the strong military response, according to the first poll taken since the war began 10 days ago. Will that change if Hezbollah guerillas mount stiff resistance? At the ground battle still going on near Avivim, Hezbollah has already killed several Israeli soldiers, injured others, and taken out a tank.
AMANPOUR: So the Israeli air force is still in action, and also we have been hearing artillery fire. But the air force is not just dropping bombs. It is also dropping leaflets. The latest telling the residents of southern Lebanon to move back, back to about the Litani River, some 25 miles back from the border with Israel -- Lou.
DOBBS: Christiane, thank you very much.
Christiane Amanpour from the Israeli-Lebanese border.
The president of Lebanon tonight is vowing to send his troops to the border to defend Lebanon if Israel launches a full-scale ground invasion.
Nic Robertson talked with Lebanon's president, an ally of Syria, in an exclusive CNN interview. He joins us tonight from Beirut -- Nic.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, I met President Emile Lahoud at his palace overlooking the city. You could see where the bombs were striking in the city.
The president of Lebanon insisted to me that the Lebanese remain united in the face of these attacks. This was something he repeated throughout his interview.
I asked him, would he, as commander in chief, execute an order to send the Lebanese army to the border into the fight with Israel if there was a large-scale Israeli invasion. He said absolutely, the troops would go into the fight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EMILE LAHOUD, LEBANESE PRESIDENT: The army is going to defend its land. And inside Lebanon they can do a lot. They cannot be strong enough to be against Israel on the frontier because they have much stronger material and weaponry, but inside Lebanon they know the land. And of course they will fight the invading force of Israel if it tries to come inside.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: And the president wasn't the only politician I talked to today. I talked to the parliamentary speaker, the head of the Amal Party. He is the political ally of Hezbollah. He had during the civil war here the Amal militia. He told me that the Amal militia would also join the fight if the Israelis crossed over into Lebanon in big numbers -- Lou.
DOBBS: Nic, thank you very much.
Nic Robertson, talking with the president of Lebanon, reporting tonight from Beirut. Thank you, Nic.
The U.S. military tonight fears it could be drawn into a wider war in southern Lebanon if Israel were to launch that large-scale ground invasion.
Barbara Starr has the report tonight from Larnaca, Cyprus.
BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Lou, tonight behind me in the eastern Mediterranean four U.S. Navy amphibious warships are steaming, doing their runs back and forth to Beirut, bringing out American citizens from the war zone and bringing them here to safety in Cyprus, where they are then making their way back to their homes in the United States.
By the end of the weekend, the U.S. military believes it will have finished the first phase of the job, withdrawing about 8,000 Americans wanting to leave Lebanon immediately. But there is concern about what the next step may be.
Military sources in the region tell us that if Israel invades Lebanon in a full-out ground assault, the U.S. military is quite concerned that the balance of the Americans in Lebanon -- there were a total of about 25,000 there -- the balance of them may seek immediate U.S. military assistance in trying to get out of the country. There may also be requests for the military to assist other countries in getting their nationals out.
And perhaps the deepest concern, there are still Americans, it is known, Lebanese-Americans, mainly, in southern Lebanon. There has been some effort to get them out, but the major question remains, will the U.S. have to put helicopters into southern Lebanon to get those people to safety -- Lou.
DOBBS: Barbara Starr, thank you.
Barbara Starr from Larnaca, Cyprus.
Israel's 10-day bombardment of Hezbollah positions in Lebanon hasn't stopped Hezbollah's ability to attack Israel. New Hezbollah rockets slammed into northern Israel today.
Fionnuala Sweeney reports now from Haifa -- Fionnuala.
FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the Israeli coastal port city of Haifa was subjected to numerous rocket barrages throughout Friday. Six in all during which 39 people were injured, three critically. This was not the first time that Haifa has been hit from rocket launchers from Lebanon, Haifa just being 20 kilometers from the Lebanese border.
Earlier in the day, the Israeli military here in Haifa said that this was, in their words, "a new war, a different war," because there was no front line. The challenge for the Israeli military, in that when they destroy a target in southern Lebanon, another one is created. Haifa is quiet this evening, but residents here are braced for more rocket barrages on Saturday -- Lou.
DOBBS: Fionnuala Sweeney, thank you.
A U.S. Marine assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force killed today in Iraq. The Marine was killed as a result of enemy action while fighting in Iraq's deadly Al Anbar province.
2,558 of our troops have been killed in Iraq in what is now 1,219 days of warfare.
There have been 10 days of warfare between Israel and Hezbollah. At least 19 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. At least 100 Hezbollah terrorists have been killed.
Still ahead, we're live in Washington, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has returned from New York. She's gearing up for a diplomatic mission to the Mideast. It will be anything but shuttle diplomacy.
We'll have that live report and a live report from the Pentagon, as well, on the military might of the Lebanese army.
And we'll assess the force of Hezbollah and that of the Israeli forces.
The U.S. Army may soon be battling, and so will the army facing the Israeli army, the Lebanese, should Israeli ground forces enter Lebanon.
And will Congress ever learn? Five months after the death of the Dubai ports deal, or debacle, Congress has approved a new deal that will give Mideast firms potential to control our port facilities.
The war on the middle class still rages.
All of that and a great deal more.
But first, we want to take a moment to remember some of the milestones in the decades-long Middle East conflict, including the Camp David Accord signed in 1979.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was an underlying strategic desire for a positive outcome on the part of all participants, but the differences between them initially and for a long time seemed almost irreconcilable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Israeli ground forces tonight are massing at the border at northern Israel. They are preparing for a large-scale invasion of southern Lebanon. It is unclear tonight whether they have been authorized to launch that invasion.
And at the White House tonight, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is preparing for a diplomatic mission to the Mideast set to leave the United States Sunday.
Ed Henry live now at the White House with the latest for us -- Ed.
ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Lou, in a sign of the growing urgency here at the White House, there's been a late add to the president's schedule on Sunday when he returns from a weekend at his Texas ranch. He and Secretary Rice will be here at the White House hosting top Saudi officials for a high-level meeting about the Mideast crisis. Then, Secretary Rice, it was announced today, will be heading to the Mideast.
First she's going to Israel and the West Bank on Sunday. Then she will be heading for a stop in Rome for a summit with top Arab officials.
The White House engaged in a real balancing act here. They are really stepping up their efforts amid criticism from some Democrats on Capitol Hill that it took them too long to get engaged in this process. But on the other hand, they are also trying to downplay expectations. They realize that Secretary Rice can't go to the region and simply wave a magic wand to end the violence.
Here is Secretary Rice responding to charges that this shuttle diplomacy should have started a lot sooner.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, SECRETARY OF STATE: I could have gotten on a plane and rushed over and started shuttling, and it wouldn't have been clear what I was shuttling to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, mindful that her trip will only raise hopes of a peace deal, the secretary quickly tried to tamp down some expectations over what she called a quick fix, such as a cease-fire between Israel and Hezbollah, which despite growing international pressure, the White House continues to resist, calling it a false promise.
Take a listen to the secretary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICE: Any cease-fire cannot allow that condition to remain, because I can guarantee you, if you simply look for a cease-fire that -- that acknowledges and freezes the status quo ante, we will be back here in six months again, or in five months, or in nine months, or in a year trying to get another cease-fire because Hezbollah will have decided yet again to try and to use southern Lebanon as a sanctuary to fire against Israel.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: Now, tonight, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid is pressing President Bush to name a high level special envoy to the Mideast to handle the situation. The White House just responded moments ago, saying they already have a top envoy, Secretary Rice. She's heading to the region this weekend -- Lou.
DOBBS: What would be Senator Reid's reasoning on a high-level envoy? You can't get much higher than the secretary of state.
HENRY: That's right. That's why senior officials here are sort of scratching their head about this request. They think maybe if it had come in a few days earlier, but now after several days of the crisis, obviously the secretary is going this weekend, and certainly the president is not going to step on her toes -- Lou.
DOBBS: The secretary sounded brittle and defensive in trying to explain why she had not already engaged in shuttle diplomacy, saying that she would not have known what to do.
What was the meaning of that on the part of the administration?
HENRY: Well, I think they didn't want to rush into this situation and raise the level of the discussions immediately without assessing the situation. Clearly, the White House was engaged, maybe not in shuttle diplomacy, but Secretary Rice has been on the phone since the beginning of this crisis with people like Israeli Prime Minister Olmert. The president has also himself been on the phone with various leaders in the Mideast, though he has faced some criticism because he himself has not spoken directly to the Israeli prime minister -- Lou.
DOBBS: Ed, thank you very much.
Ed Henry from the White House.
That brings us to the subject of our poll tonight. The question: Do you believe a Jewish state and a Palestinian state will ever exist peacefully side by side? Yes or no?
Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We'll have results at the end of this broadcast.
We'll have much more on the ever-intensifying hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah here tonight. We'll be going live to the Israeli-Lebanese border for the very latest from Christiane Amanpour.
We'll be taking you to Gaza and the Pentagon for special reports on the escalating violence.
But first tonight, a new threat to this country's port security. It is only a presidential signature away.
While the war in Iraq goes on and the battle between Hezbollah and Israel has intensified, and the media has focused upon it, the U.S. House of Representatives backing the Senate in passing a so- called free trade agreement with the Middle Eastern nation of Oman. The bill, set for the president's signature, delivers to Oman and other foreign entities the right to own and manage U.S. port facilities.
Bill Tucker reports.
BILL TUCKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Congress has approved a free trade agreement with Oman.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The bill has passed.
TUCKER: The vote, 221-205, a vote closer than most, after objections were raised in the House that this agreement guarantees Omani companies or companies based in Oman the right to own and operate American port facilities, an argument which the administration rejects. But a close look shows that they are guaranteed the right to "... land side aspects of port activities, including operation and maintenance of docks; loading and unloading of vessels directly to or from land; marine cargo handling; operation and maintenance of piers; ship cleaning; stevedoring; transfer of cargo between vessels and trucks, trains, pipelines and wharves; waterfront terminal operations."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would think Congress, who had spoken very loudly about the United Arab Emirates situation, would speak loudly in these trade agreements to say, wait a minute, we don't want that to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The members of Congress who vote for these, the number getting smaller and smaller, make a calculation. All the corporations that bankroll their campaigns want them for the greedy short-term interests, and those congressmen calculate that the public won't catch on.
TUCKER: And so far the public hasn't.
TUCKER: But the trade deficit is threatening the top $800 billion this year. And at some point, someone may be called upon to explain, Lou, why we're putting $800 billion more of our dollars in the hands of our trading partners than we are getting in return.
DOBBS: This administration and this Congress should be held absolutely accountable. This is nothing less than an assault on the American people and our national sovereignty. And after Dubai -- the Dubai ports deal, there is no excuse for anyone in this.
We're going to put up on our Web site this evening the names of every member of the House who voted for this deal. And they should be held accountable, in my opinion.
This is grievous. This is serious. I am -- I cannot tell you -- I think the American people should be absolutely outraged at this.
Bill Tucker, thank you.
Tonight, thousands of Israeli troops are massing on the border with Lebanon. It is a full-scale Israeli preparation, at least, for an invasion of Lebanon. Will it be imminent?
We'll be going live to Christiane Amanpour for the latest developments on the border with Israel and Lebanon.
And tonight, Lebanon's president is insisting his army will fight to defend his nation. We'll have that special report on the strategic implications for the Middle East.
And at home, Congress may be -- may be waking up to the threat of electronic voting. And can we really wait years for a solution? That is precisely what your Congress has in mind.
We'll have the special report.
The assault on the middle class unending.
All of that and more ahead.
But first, a look back at the Middle East and at the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut by Hezbollah.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD REAGAN, FMR. PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A truck smashed through the doors of the headquarters building in which our Marines were sleeping and instantly exploded. The four-story concrete building collapsed in a pile of rubble. More than 200 of the sleeping men were killed in that one hideous, insane attack.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Tonight, thousands of Israeli troops are massing on the northern border with Lebanon. The Israeli Defense Force saying it's calling up some 86,000 reservists as border reinforcements. The IDF says it's dropping leaflets, urging residents of southern Lebanon to move 25 miles north from the border.
Tonight, Israeli forces have pulled out of a Palestinian refugee camp in central Gaza. Their withdrawal ends a deadly reprisal raid after the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier by Hamas.
We'll be taking you to Gaza for a special report here. We'll also be going live to the Israel-Lebanese border for a report from Christiane Amanpour. And we'll have a live report as well from the Pentagon.
But first, Congress may be finally awakening to the extraordinary threat to our democracy from electronic voting machines. But that is conditional. Congress this week began asking tough questions about the lax security of these machines and the risk of voter fraud. But there are more questions.
Kitty Pilgrim reports.
KITTY PILGRIM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Congress took a long look at whether electronic voting machines are reliable. Congressman Rush Holt has been pushing for tougher standards.
REP. RUSH HOLT (D), NEW JERSEY: There is just too much suspicion, too much cynicism, too much doubt around the country right now about how the mechanism of our democracy is working.
PILGRIM: One of the most upsetting issues, safety standards aren't mandatory. They are voluntary and won't be in effect for years.
REP. SHERWOOD BOEHLERT (R), SCIENCE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: I'm not happy to learn that new standards are not likely to be fully enforceable until 2010 at the earliest, and that's only in states that choose to adopt them.
PILGRIM: Experts testified that virtually every electronic voting study has proven that a voter-verified paper trail is the only way to make sure a ballot is recorded accurately. Activists wore T- shirts that said, "Got paper?"
WILLIAM JEFFREY, NATIONAL INST. OF STANDARDS & TECH.: The new voluntary guidelines takes no position regarding the implementation of such paper audit trails and neither requires nor endorses them.
PILGRIM: So requirements for a paper trail are not even in the federal guidelines.
PILGRIM: Now, the issue of a paper trail was not discussed in detail at the hearing. The House Science Committee chairman said there wasn't time to go into it. That issue will be taken up in September -- Lou.
DOBBS: Just a little less than two months away from the midterm elections.
This country at times -- this Congress, this administration, I cannot fathom what they are thinking. The idea that you would risk the integrity of our -- of our elections after the lessons that we learned presumably over the last six years in this country.
PILGRIM: Citizens groups have filed in nine states to try to challenge some of these provisions. Some people get it. It seems Congress does not.
DOBBS: Well, Kitty Pilgrim, you keep us informed. We appreciate it.
Taking a look now at some of your thoughts.
Steve in Oklahoma wrote in to say, "Lou, whoever said you needed to grow a pair, needs to grow a pair themselves (ears, that is). Glad to have you in the American people's corner. Keep up the good work."
Steven in Missouri, "Lou, it seems to me that President Bush, co- president Cheney, and their neocon minions have got what they wanted, perpetual war in the Mideast and perpetual war at home on the middle class."
Elizabeth in Texas, "Thank you, Lou, for not forgetting that we have a war in Iraq. My son is over there, and I worry so much with all this unrest. Bless you for remembering them, too."
And bless you and your son and all our troops.
C. in North Carolina said, "The United Nations is a joke. Unfortunately, it's on us."
Send us your thoughts at LouDobbs.com. We'll have more of your thoughts coming up here later.
Coming right up, Israel preparing for a full-scale ground offensive into southern Lebanon. We'll be going live to the border, the Israeli-Lebanese border. Christiane Amanpour with the report.
Lebanon says its army is ready and waiting, but does Lebanon have any chance in its military against the forces of Israel? We'll have the very latest from Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon.
And the high-stakes game of taking military prisoners and the latest on the captured Israeli soldiers. Matthew Chance in Gaza with a report.
We'll have a great deal more on the latest developments in the Middle East and the war against our middle class coming right up.
Stay with us.
DOBBS: Tonight, hospitals in Haifa and other towns in northern Israel are treating victims of a new wave of Hezbollah rocket attacks. At least six separate volleys struck Friday, wounding 19 people in the port city.
About 15 rockets fell on Israel a day after Hezbollah's leader claimed that the radical Islamist terrorists remained unharmed by Israel's counter assault.
Tonight, Red Cross relief workers are dispensing aid and supplies in Lebanon's port city of Tyre. They arrived today. At least 20 people have been killed there, 50 wounded from Israeli airstrikes. Israel says that Hezbollah's kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers along its northern border triggered these hostilities. An Israeli Defense Force soldier was also captured in the south, in Gaza, that abduction, carried out by the Palestinian group Hamas. Matthew Chance now examines the strategy of taking military prisoners.
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The grim task of retrieving remains of the latest casualties in Israel's raids to free its captured soldier here in Gaza. Four members of one family blown apart by Israeli fire in clashes with Palestinian militants.
"We'll not give the soldier back unless Israel releases all our prisoners." Prisoners, Arab and Israeli, are now at the core of this Middle East crisis. Israel has about 10,000 in its jails. Many have murdered, and bombed or plotted against the Jewish state. Some are held without trial.
In Gaza, there's even a Ministry of Prisoners dedicated to their release. There's only an acting Palestinian minister from Hamas -- the regular one is a prisoner himself in Israel.
For Hamas, the Israeli soldier everyone's watching is a valuable bargaining chip.
(on camera): How many prisoners do you think that you can expect to get back in exchange for Gilad Shalit?
NOFAL HARRARA, GAZA RESIDENT: I hope a lot of them, thousands. I hope so.
CHANCE (voice-over): There have been deals in the past. Jamal was convicted of terrorism in Israel and sentenced to 30 years, but after serving 12, he was back in Gaza with his family, freed in a political deal.
(on camera): So far, Israel has adamantly refused to negotiate either with Hezbollah, or with Hamas here in Gaza for the release of its captured soldiers. To do so, it says, may encourage further abductions. But the military action hasn't set them free either, and at some point, a deal may have to be done.
Matthew Chance, CNN, Gaza.
DOBBS: Tonight, a new phase in the war between Hezbollah and Israel appears imminent. Thousands of Israeli forces are now massing on the Israeli-Lebanese border. The IDF says it is calling up 6,000 of its reservists as reinforcements. Lebanon's president warning that his army will rise to defend his nation against a full-scale ground assault by Israel.
Christiane Amanpour is live with the story on the Israeli- Lebanese border -- Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Well, Lou, we talked to the deputy commander of the Northern Command, and it is the Northern Command that is in charge of this military operation, and they have said that they, as you say, are calling up a lot of their reserves.
They're calling up a lot of their active duty units from elsewhere in Israel, a lot of the armor, a lot of the units are all coming. And as we said, power is all pointing towards the Lebanese border, according to the general.
So when we asked them is this going happen imminently, obviously, they won't tell us for obvious military reasons. But they are saying that, look, every hour we're reevaluating. We have a limited ground incursion going on right now, anywhere between a mile, a few miles, and even deeper into southern Lebanon going after rocket launchers, bunkers and those kinds of targets.
And he said that if it becomes necessary and if we get the order, we'll be ready. And there are tanks. There are troops moving towards the border as we witnessed today, and so this seems to be certainly something that the Israeli military and the Israeli government is trying to get across, this message.
And to that end, they have dropped leaflets from the air over southern Lebanon, telling residents of southern Lebanon to move back some 20 miles, about 40 kilometers, which amounts to where the Litani River is, sort of a de facto border between southern Lebanon and the rest of the country there -- Lou.
DOBBS: Christiane, thank you very much. Christiane Amanpour from the border of the Lebanese-Israeli border.
The president of Lebanon tonight warning that his army will join the battle and defend Lebanon if Israeli forces launch the ground attack. Many military analysts call this an empty threat, saying Lebanon's army is simply too weak.
Jamie McIntyre reports from the Pentagon.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SR. PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most experts agree Israel has the best trained, best equipped, and most capable military in the Middle East. By comparison, Lebanon's ragtag army lacks not only high-tech weaponry, but also the training and tactics to go toe-to-toe with Israel on the conventional battlefield.
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: A conventional fight with Israeli army would be like someone fighting a conventional fight with the United States Army. They don't want to do that.
MCINTYRE: On paper, what the military calls the order of battle shows a lopsided match-up. Israel has three times the troops and ships, 12 times the tanks and helicopters. And Lebanon has no combat aircraft that can match up with the U.S. made F-15 and F-16s flown by the Israeli Air Force.
Despite Lebanon's public vow to defend its territory, Israel hopes its military stays on the sidelines when Israeli ground forces go after Hezbollah strongholds in the south.
MARK REGEV, ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTRY: The Lebanese army is not our enemy, the Lebanese people is not our enemy. Our enemy is the Hezbollah.
MCINTYRE: In fact, some think Israel would like to enlist the Lebanese military to keep the peace once Hezbollah is weakened.
BRIG. GEN. JAMES MARKS (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: If Israel can achieve the objectives on the ground that it needs to achieve, I could see where they could possibly have the Lebanese army come in and do a relief in place and reclaim their sovereign territory.
MCINTYRE: The danger for Israel's military is getting bogged down in an insurgency where the enemy doesn't have to win, just inflict casualties.
GRANGE: So what is tough for the Israelis, just like it would be the Americans right now in Iraq, is guerrilla warfare. It's fighting terrorism that hide among civilians and use those kind of tactics, not artillery pieces and tanks and those things. Those are easy to destroy by a modern army.
MCINTYRE: Israel's strategy is much different than when it invaded Lebanon in 1982 and tried to install a pro-Israeli government. Back then, it opposed international intervention. This time it is citing a U.N. resolution which calls for disarming of Hezbollah as the justification for its use of force. And that resolution also calls for Lebanon to exert control over that southern area along the border with Israel -- Lou.
DOBBS: Jamie, as is clear the fight is between now, even though victims are obviously in Lebanon throughout without much way of avoiding it because of the nature of the guerrilla warfare, Lebanese victims. But Hezbollah is inflicting casualties on the Israeli forces.
How strong is Hezbollah? What is our best understanding of that and why are they still, even after 10 days against this mighty Israeli military force, able to continue to inflict damage?
MCINTYRE: Well, it's a small force. Experts say estimate between 500 sort of full-time, regular Hezbollah fighters plus maybe another 1,000 or so they can draw on if they need to. But it also -- it's an indigenous force. It enjoys popular support. It's seen as a defender of Lebanon against Israel by many of the people there in the south. So with any insurgency, it draws on the support of the people around it and it doesn't have to win any big strategic battle. It just needs to be able to inflict casualties in some places. Whereas the Israelis are trying to maintain control over the whole area, they only have to take control in some small areas, so they have the advantage.
DOBBS: Jamie, thank you very much. Jamie McIntyre from the Pentagon.
Coming up here, three of the country's top political analysts and strategists join me to discuss the worsening situation in the Middle East and the continuing assault on our middle class at home.
And a House divided. Lawmakers debating the need and effectiveness of an expanded fence along the U.S.-Mexico border. We'll have that special report and much more on the Middle East conflict as well.
But first, a look back at a rare moment of hope for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in the Middle East, the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
YITZHAK RABIN, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: We who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today in a loud and a clear voice, enough of blood and tears. Enough.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: Secretary of State Rice headed to the Middle East this Sunday. Secretary Rice said she will not press for a cease-fire. A cease-fire, she said, would be a false promise. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton today said a cease-fire would only allow Hezbollah time to plan its next wave of attacks. Joining me now, James Taranto of the "Wall Street Journal," Michael Goodwin of the "New York daily News," Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf. We thank you all three for being here.
Michael Goodwin, you started this with your column on World War III. Now we are treated to Newt Gingrich declaring it as World War III. A host of pundits and savants doing as well. Do you want to apologize or do you think you had it right?
MICHAEL GOODWIN, THE "NEW YORK DAILY NEWS": Well actually, I wrote that before the Israeli-Lebanese Hezbollah attacks and before the attacks in India. So I think things have only gotten worse. I think the war started a long time ago. You can date it all of the way back to 1979, the Iranian takeover of the American embassy, the Islamic revolution.
DOBBS: As you pointed out in your outstanding column. The idea now though, and one of the things that one sees in the air is this World War III, yay or nay. It has become, while you are doing a thoughtful analysis, it is becoming part of the national media something that could easily be mistaken as call to arms and asking for war. We have Bill Kristol, for crying out loud, one of the few remaining public neo-cons, declaring we should be attacking Iran.
GOODWIN: I wrote it because I think it's the best way to understand all these tentacles around the globe. I think that you have to see them as fronts. And then we begin to deal with them. But I think we have to see the whole battlefield first and that was my point. We have to look at it. See it for what it is.
DOBBS: Radical Islamist terrorism.
JAMES TARANTO, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": I would be remiss if I didn't point out here that we had an op-ed piece on the "Journal's" editorial page a few years ago by Elliot Cohen making a very similar argument, only he called it World War IV. World War III he said was the Cold War.
DOBBS: We'll let you all fight over that aspect of it. The Middle East, there is no mistaken what is going on here. Israel is going to, by statement and by action, is going to destroy Hezbollah to the extent it can. Can it Hank?
HANK SHEINKOPF, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Very difficult. It shocks the conscious though, I might add, that Hezbollah would target Nazareth, the birth place of Jesus, an Arab village. It tells you a good deal about who the enemy is. Will the Israelis be able to get them out? It is very difficult to fight an insurgent war. Look at Iraq. Very difficult.
DOBBS: Unlike you, my conscious is not shocked after looking over 58 years of history in the Middle East. The utter failure of Europe, the United States, the United Nations. These peoples of Israel, Palestine and Arab nations, what shock remains for us?
SHEINKOPF: It is quite shocking to consider the world is looking at this and not stepping in and putting a stop to it once and for all. You can not do business with people who bomb, take bombing of the marines and the barracks in Lebanon not so long ago in our history, look at what happened in the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, the murder and slaughter of innocent people that some of these people enjoy.
DOBBS: And as we look at the terrorism in Iraq, the insurgency that continues there. More people arguably have, by some estimates, died in Iraq, more Iraqis, than Arabs or Israelis over 58 years of warfare. Have we, in point of fact, lost all sense of proportion in the Middle East? How are we, as a matter of policy, looking at the Middle East in any way that proximates rationality?
TARANTO: Well, I think we've lost all sense of proportion if we talk about the deaths in Iraq and forget that the death toll in Iraq on an annual basis was a good deal higher when Saddam Hussein was in power.
DOBBS: Please. Let me just say right now. I am not interested in a partisan discussion. I'm interested in understanding as best I possibly can what kind of madness on the part of our policy makers cannot sort through and make discrete judgments about policy Israel, Lebanon, Hezbollah, Hamas, insurgencies in Iraq, Iran, and Syria? And the support that they receive from Saudi Arabia and an Arab League that's doing absolutely nothing to stop Hezbollah, Hamas or insurgency in Iraq.
TARANTO: The Arab league, interestingly, has actually come out, or a number of countries in the Arab League, including the Saudis, the Egyptians and the Jordanians have come out and condemned Hezbollah. Very strange that they're almost taking Israel's side here, but it is because they are afraid of Iran as we are afraid of Iran. The fear of Iran outweighs their hatred of the Jews. And I think there's potential for some diplomatic opening there. I was encouraged to hear that Secretary Rice is meeting with the Saudis on Sunday.
GOODWIN: Yes, look, I think Rice doing the right thing by going very slowly. I think Israel has to be allowed to, if not finish this job, at least make a huge change in the status quo. I think the wrong thing for it to happen now would be some kind of a stalemate, where we just, we all get upset by the civilian casualties and we say let's stop this now. It's enough bloodshed. It's not enough until Hezbollah is defanged and put back in the box, if not crushed.
DOBBS: Which the United Nations was supposed to have done two years ago. A force, it turns out it's an observer force, 2,000 United Nations troops in southern Lebanon that outnumber, in point of fact, Hezbollah, that is simply nothing but a fig leaf and a fiction.
SHEINKOPF: The history of U.N. observer operations is pretty significant to watch. If you look at 1967, before the '67 war, the six day war in Israel, we also had an observer force there and they accomplished nothing.
DOBBS: How obscene it that while this is happening, our men and women are dying in Iraq. Israelis and Palestinians and Hezbollah are all dying in that conflict that our U.S. Congress is passing a free trade agreement that turns over port facilities, many of the same people who fought the Dubai Ports, agreeing to it. What are your thoughts Hank?
SHEINKOPF: Patently absurd. It should not happen. The American public needs to get immediately exercised and pay attention and do something about it. Doing something means getting on the phone and letting your Congress people know that this is not acceptable.
DOBBS: What do you think, James?
TARANTO: I disagree. I think we want to engage the Arab world in a constructive way. And, you know, if they want to run ports, great. It's a lot better than blowing us up.
DOBBS: That seems to be the thinking of this august Congress and president. I find it ...
GOODWIN: I think there should be lots of restrictions on free trade. I mean certainly the loss of American jobs is an issue but security should be one where we examine all of the security implications and that's what stopped Dubai Ports and now for the Oman deal to go through under the same terms doesn't make any sense.
DOBBS: It's an offensive slap in the face of the American people and an utter disregard for our national sovereignty but than again, that begs the question why in the world we don't have border and port security, both established five years after September 11. But then those are obscenities for another discussion.
James Taranto, Michael Goodwin, Hank Sheinkopf, thank you, gentlemen. A reminder now to vote in our poll. Do you believe a Jewish state and a Palestinian state will ever exist peacefully side by side? Cast your vote at LouDobbs.com. We would love to hear your answer. We'll have the answers here in just a moment.
Still ahead, the White House steps up its public relations campaign, pushing the president's so-called, are you ready, comprehensive immigration reform plan. We'll have all of the sorry details and why the U.S. may have to ask for Mexico's approval to build that border fence. We'll have a special report and more of your thoughts on the Middle East conflict and other issues. But first it has been more than a decade since the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABIN: I am sure the real wish on the last minute of Israel was that the peace process will be continued.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DOBBS: In just a few moments here on CNN, "THE SITUATION ROOM" with Wolf Blitzer. Wolf, tell us about it.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Lou. Fresh developments from the Middle East. A missing Israeli soldier reportedly found dead, and fears of a full-scale ground war in Lebanon as Israeli troops mass at the border. Christiane Amanpour is standing by.
In Beirut, more devastation. CNN's Anderson Cooper is standing by to take us on a live tour of war-torn Beirut.
And from the Bush administration's diplomatic arsenal, Condoleezza Rice. She is getting ready to head off to the Middle East, while at this hour there's a new twist on the floor of the U.N. All that, Lou, coming up in "THE SITUATION ROOM."
DOBBS: Thank you.
More than half the states in this country, municipalities all across the country, taking action on illegal immigration. And the Bush administration is still pushing for so-called comprehensive immigration reform, despite the fact that the House leadership says no way, border security first.
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales today praised the president's plan as a broad set of reforms. The attorney general talking in California, the state with the largest illegal alien population in this nation.
Casey Wian reports from Los Angeles.
CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says he has a special understanding of the nation's illegal immigration and border security crisis, because his grandparents were immigrants from Mexico, though Gonzales says he doesn't know if they were illegal aliens. And because he is a former judge and now the nation's top law enforcement official, he appreciates the rule of law. But he's also loyal to his boss and the president's so-called comprehensive immigration reform plan.
ALBERTO GONZALES, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The president appreciates that people are willing to risk everything, everything for the dream of freedom. And he appreciates the vital need to protect Americans from those who will do anything to take our freedoms away.
I believe his reform proposals are an excellent, multifaceted approach to this very delicate, very complicated issue.
WIAN: The attorney general's mission was another example of the public relations effort that has now taken over the battle over border security and immigration reform.
As he spoke, congressional Republicans headed to the border on yet another fact-finding mission.
Nearly five years after 9/11 and more than two years after President Bush first outlined his immigration reform plans, almost nothing has been accomplished.
WIAN: In his speech, Attorney General Gonzales says the reality of the times calls for fast, no-nonsense action. Well, so far at least, the federal government's action has been anything but fast and full of nonsense, Lou.
DOBBS: Absolutely. The fact that we do not even have the National Guard that the president promised in place on the border to support the Border Patrol, that the Border Patrol agents had been promised but not funded by this administration, the fact that this country remains absolutely vulnerable at its borders and its ports is without question one of the most obscene indictments that could be made of the United States government five years after September 11th.
Fast and no nonsense, says the attorney general. That bears careful examination. We thank you for beginning the process. Casey Wian from Los Angeles tonight. The House this week held a hearing on the need for an expanded fence along our border with Mexico. Some of the lawmakers offering evidence that existing fence has always been effective. Others insist a partial fence will only lead illegal border crossers to find new points of entry. Lisa Sylvester reports from Washington.
LISA SYLVESTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The House approved 700 miles of fencing along the southern border. The Senate, 380 miles. But some lawmakers are still expressing doubt.
REP. LINDA SANCHEZ (D), CALIFORNIA: Building a fence on the southern border of the United States will only push illegal activity in border crossings to other areas.
SYLVESTER: But U.S. Customs and Border Protection says 75 miles of existing fence has proven effective. Congressman Duncan Hunter referred to San Diego's success.
REP. DUNCAN HUNTER (R), CALIFORNIA: We pulled down the smuggling of narcotics and people by more than 90 percent, and the fence did work.
SYLVESTER: Committee Chair Dan Lungren took issue with the Senate's proposal that requires Mexican approval to construct the fence.
REP. DAN LUNGREN (R), CALIFORNIA: We're prohibited from acting unless we get a foreign government to agree to it. I'm surprised the Senate would give veto power to a foreign government. They have trouble enough with the veto power the president has.
SYLVESTER: There was almost unanimous agreement the fence is only part of the solution. It has to be coupled with more border agents, air mobility, technology and vehicle barriers. The Border Patrol says all those areas are lacking.
SYLVESTER: And Congress has had opportunities to improve border security over the years but has not appropriated the money. The latest example: Earlier this month, the Senate killed an amendment to provide funds to construct a border fence, despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of senators, 83 to 16, voted to build that fence -- Lou.
DOBBS: It is a pathetic season in Washington, D.C. on Capitol Hill, I think it would be fair to say. And the congresswoman -- Congresswoman Sanchez, the idea that a fence causes border crossers, illegal aliens, to move to another part, saying that's the reason not to build it -- Lisa, wouldn't that make sense then just to fence the whole thing if it is effective?
SYLVESTER: It's a very strange logic that you're hearing out of many Democrats. But you are absolutely right on that point, Lou. DOBBS: Lisa Sylvester, as always, thank you very much.
Still ahead, we'll have the results of tonight's poll and some of your thoughts on the Middle East, and my comments on the conflict. Stay with us.
DOBBS: Our poll now: 79 percent of you say you don't believe a Jewish state and a Palestinian state will ever exist peacefully side by side.
More of your thoughts now. John in Virginia: "Good for you, Lou Dobbs. If only others in our media and government had your courage and balance, the Middle East would be a very different place today."
Mary Ann in Illinois: "Mr. Dobbs, I'm a faithful viewer and reader and just want to say, I agree wholeheartedly with your insight and comments on our nation and world affairs. I wish you were running for office. But then again, I like you too much to wish that upon anyone."
Now, we also had some negative comments, but we're not even going to think about those tonight. That's next week. Please be with us.
Thanks for watching. Good night. Good night from New York. Have a great weekend. "THE SITUATION ROOM" begins right now with Wolf Blitzer -- Wolf.
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